King Lear
Play Summary and Full Text: Full Text with Clips: Act I Scene 4a

Kent enters, disguised, and announces himself as such so the audience knows who he is. Then Lear and his knights come in. (We are to imagine a riotous crowd, or the production will have a riotous crowd.) He espies Kent and after a sequence of questions about who he is and what he wants, all given in a rather jocular style, he agrees to have Kent serve him. Lear calls for his Fool, a court jester, but Oswald appears instead. Lear orders him to fetch Goneril. He leaves, but Lear calls him back. He gets a message that Goneril is ill, and then a suggestion from one of his knights that they are not being treated as they should be. Lear agrees to a “faint neglect” but blames himself rather than purposeful unkindness. He sends for Goneril. But Oswald reappears instead. Lear greets him with crude vituperations, then strikes him when Oswald protests mildly, after which Kent trips him, earning Lear’s praise and a tip.

Act I Scene 3 . . . Act II Scene 4b

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ACT I. SCENE IV. SEGMENT A. A hall in the Albany’s palace.

Enter Kent [disguised]

KENT
If but as well I other accents borrow
That can my speech defuse, my good intent
May carry through itself to that full issue
For which I razed my likeness. Now, banished Kent,
If thou canst serve where thou dost stand condemned,     [5]
So may it come thy master whom thou lovest
Shall find thee full of labors.

Horns within. Enter Lear and Attendents

KING LEAR
Let me not stay a jot for dinner. Go get it ready.   [exit a knight.]
How now, what art thou?

KENT   A man, sir.    [10]

KING LEAR   What dost thou profess? What wouldst thou with us?

KENT
I do profess to be no less than I seem: to serve
him truly that will put me in trust, to love him
that is honest, to converse with him that is wise,

and says little, to fear judgment, to fight when I     [15]
cannot choose, and to eat no fish.

KING LEAR   What art thou?

KENT   A very honest-hearted fellow, and as poor as the King.

KING LEAR
If thou be’st as poor for a subject as he’s for a
king, thou art poor enough.
What wouldst thou?    [20]

KENT   Service.

KING LEAR   Who wouldst thou serve?

KENT   You.

KING LEAR   Dost thou know me, fellow?

KENT
No, sir. But you have that in your countenance     [25]
which I would fain call master.

KING LEAR    What’s that?

KENT   Authority.

KING LEAR   What services canst thou do?

KENT
I can keep honest counsel, ride, run, mar a curious    [30]
tale in telling it, and deliver a plain message
bluntly. That which ordinary men are fit for, I am
qualified in, and the best of me is diligence.

KING LEAR   How old art thou?

KENT
Not so young, sir, to love a woman for singing, nor     [35]
so old to dote on her for anything. I have years
on my back forty-eight.

KING LEAR
Follow me. Thou shalt serve me. If I like thee no
worse after dinner, I will not part from thee yet.
Dinner, ho, dinner!
Where’s my knave, my fool?    [40]
Go you, and call my fool hither.    Enter Steward
You, you, sirrah, where’s my daughter?

OSWALD   So please you—   Exit

KING LEAR
What says the fellow there? Call the clotpoll back.
Where’s my fool? Ho, I think the world’s asleep.    [45]
How now, where’s that mongrel?

Knight   He says, my lord, your daughter is not well.

KING LEAR   Why came not the slave back to me when I called him?

Knight   Sir, he answered me in the roundest manner he would not.

KING LEAR   He would not?    [50]

Knight
My lord, I know not what the matter is, but to my judgment, your
highness is not entertained with that ceremonious affection as you
were wont. There’s a great abatement of kindness appears as well
in the general dependants as in the Duke himself also, and your daughter.

KING LEAR   Ha! Sayest thou so?    [55]

Knight
I beseech you pardon me my lord, if I be mistaken, for my duty
cannot be silent when I think your highness wronged.

KING LEAR
Thou but rememberest me of mine own conception. I have
perceived a most faint neglect of late, which I have rather
blamed as mine own jealous curiosity than as a very pretense    [60]
and purpose of unkindness.
I will look further into’t.
But where’s my fool? I have not seen him this two days.

Knight
Since my young lady’s going into France, sir, the
fool hath much pined away.

KING LEAR
No more of that. I have noted it well. Go you,    [65]
and tell my daughter I would speak with her.
Go you, call hither my fool. Enter Steward.
O, you sir, you, come you hither, sir. Who am I, sir?

OSWALD   My lady’s father.

KING LEAR    My lady’s father? My lord’s knave, you     [70]
whoreson dog, you slave, you cur!

OSWALD    I am none of these, my lord. I beseech your pardon.

KING LEAR   Do you bandy looks with me, you rascal?
[Strikes him]

OSWALD   I’ll not be strucken, my lord.

KENT   Nor tripped neither, you base football player.    [75]

KING LEAR   I thank thee, fellow. Thou servest me, and I’ll love thee.

KENT
Come, sir, arise, away. I’ll teach you differences. Away, away. If
you will measure your lubber’s length again, tarry. But away. Go to.
Have you wisdom? So.
[Pushes Oswald out]

KING LEAR
Now, my friendly knave, I thank thee. There’s earnest of thy service.    [80]

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